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Being so close to the USA, Mexico receives masses of tourism but is fortunately large enough to absorb it without losing too much of its character. It’s been a backpacker destination since the 50’s and 60’s when everyone from Jack Kerouac to the Furry Freak Brothers headed south in search of Acapulco Gold. With a brave new world of backpackers wandering around on their Gap Years, Mexico isn’t quite as freaky a travel destination as it used to be but still there’s magic to be found.

The trouble is that most people arrive in Mexico expecting to find tequila, sombreros and Speedy Gonzales. Tourists flock to the grand plazas to sip mescal in grand ballrooms where they’ll be serenaded by gangs of mariachi singers and called ‘senor’. In short, many travellers would like to find Mexico-in-a-box which lives up to their cultural clichés. The real Mexico is to be found around the corner, eating tacos at a street stall with a neon light and the football on a crackly radio.

Likewise, hostels are everywhere these days and the danger is that you’ll spend your whole time with a load of other whining backpackers and not with Mexicans. Thus it’s a really good plan to learn Spanish so that you can begin to connect to the locals who expect you to be just another dumb gringo – when they hear you speak their languages their attitudes change right away.

Those with a taste for psychedelics will certainly want to pursue peyote up in the desert to the north. There are indigenous people there who take grandfather peyote there as a matter of course and if you arrive with respect they may allow you to partake in their ceremonies. You can always go for it independently, of course but be warned you may not be the same afterwards as you were before – but then isn’t that the point of psychedelics?

These days the new age travellers all head to the Mayan ruins to take mushrooms and fantasise over the end of the world in 2012. They get stoned at the holy ruins and decipher hidden prophecies in the genitals of a shaman of 1500 years before. Lots of good fun until they get started on the astrology…

Surfers will head like a shot to the West coast of Oaxaca and the swells of Puerto Escondido have long been an open secret amongst the surf community. Que buena onda!

There’s the chance to volunteer and save the poor turtles up and down the coast and this can be a good opportunity to chill out on an undeveloped beach, something quite hard to find in Mexico.

There’s good parties to be found with the Mexicans and there are good scenes up and down the country but it lacks the craziness of Central America. The temptation of heading south to cheaper and more colourful scenes is often too much for the traveller to resist.

Being so close to the USA, Mexico receives masses of tourism but is fortunately large enough to absorb it without losing too much of its character. It’s been a backpacker destination since the 50’s and 60’s when everyone from Jack Kerouac to the Furry Freak Brothers headed south in search of Acapulco Gold. With a brave new world of backpackers wandering around on their Gap Years, Mexico isn’t quite as freaky a travel destination as it used to be but still there’s magic to be found.

The trouble is that most people arrive in Mexico expecting to find tequila, sombreros and Speedy Gonzales. Tourists flock to the grand plazas to sip mescal in grand ballrooms where they’ll be serenaded by gangs of mariachi singers and called ‘senor’. In short, many travellers would like to find Mexico-in-a-box which lives up to their cultural clichés. The real Mexico is to be found around the corner, eating tacos at a street stall with a neon light and the football on a crackly radio.

Likewise, hostels are everywhere these days and the danger is that you’ll spend your whole time with a load of other whining backpackers and not with Mexicans. Thus it’s a really good plan to learn Spanish so that you can begin to connect to the locals who expect you to be just another dumb gringo – when they hear you speak their languages their attitudes change right away.

Those with a taste for psychedelics will certainly want to pursue peyote up in the desert to the north. There are indigenous people there who take grandfather peyote there as a matter of course and if you arrive with respect they may allow you to partake in their ceremonies. You can always go for it independently, of course but be warned you may not be the same afterwards as you were before – but then isn’t that the point of psychedelics?

These days the new age travellers all head to the Mayan ruins to take mushrooms and fantasise over the end of the world in 2012. They get stoned at the holy ruins and decipher hidden prophecies in the genitals of a shaman of 1500 years before. Lots of good fun until they get started on the astrology…

Surfers will head like a shot to the West coast of Oaxaca and the swells of Puerto Escondido have long been an open secret amongst the surf community. Que buena onda!

There’s the chance to volunteer and save the poor turtles up and down the coast and this can be a good opportunity to chill out on an undeveloped beach, something quite hard to find in Mexico.

There’s good parties to be found with the Mexicans and there are good scenes up and down the country but it lacks the craziness of Central America. The temptation of heading south to cheaper and more colourful scenes is often too much for the traveller to resist.